Dr. M. Krishnan Nair, Kerala’s pioneer in cancer care, passes away

Dr. M. Krishnan Nair, Kerala’s pioneer in cancer care, passes away

M. Krishnan Nair, doyen oncologist who was instrumental in setting up the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala’s first modern and affordable cancer-care centre in the public sector way back in 1981, is no more. He was 81.

Dr. Nair, who single-mindedly pursued the dream of setting up the RCC and nurtured it into a world class treatment centre, died here on Thursday after remaining indisposed for quite some time now. He helmed RCC as its founder-director till his retirement in 2003.
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Beginning his career as a tutor at the Radiology department of Government Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram, Dr. Nair underwent training in oncology at the NHS Christie Hospital, Manchester, UK, one of the largest cancer centres in Europe, in 1969.

Between 1972 and ‘81, Dr. Nair took the lead in developing the Radiology department at MCH as the Institute of Oncological Sciences, expanding infrastructure and cancer diagnostic and treatment modalities.

Convinced that a comprehensive approach was required to tackle cancer, which was emerging as a significant public health challenge in Kerala, he sought the help of the then Chief Minister, C. Achutha Menon, to lobby for a Centrally aided RCC for the State.

The Institute of Oncological Sciences at the MCH became the RCC in 1981. There was much resentment among his peers at the time that Dr. Nair was walking away with the entire Radiology department at MCH, but he pushed ahead with developing the institute.

Apart from the major developments in infrastructure and treatment modalities, some of the major milestones during his tenure included the setting up of regional RCC centres in districts, implementation of the 10-year Kerala Cancer Control Plan, launch of the Community Oncology Department for creating awareness on the importance of early detection and care of cancer, the first pediatric oncology division in the State, oral morphine manufacturing unit, pain and palliative care unit, computerisation of outpatient departments, and establishment of a  telemedicine network (Onconet)

Concerned about the impoverishment of families caused by cancer, Dr. Nair took the lead to launch a Cancer Care for Life Scheme in 1985-86 to provide free cancer care to people. In later years, as the cases grew manifold, the scheme became unviable for the RCC.

Dr. Nair always emphasised the social, mental and economic costs of cancer and how much more needed to be done to holistically address the multi-dimensional impact of this malady. His efforts to make the RCC the State’s premier cancer-care institution were indefatigable.


The nation honoured Dr. Nair for his stellar work with the Padma Shri in 2001.



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